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Mangyan culture

Tau-buid Mangyan traditional house [Source: Overseas Missionary Fellowship]

Mangyan cultural practices are in danger of vanishing because of the

influence of modern lowland culture. The literature and traditions of the
different Mangyan groups are short of documentation; thus, mainstream
society lacks awareness of the beauty of Mangyan culture and its relevance
to Filipino culture as a whole.

An Iraya-Mangyan family [Source: Mangyan Mission]

The Iraya Mangyans live in the municipalities of Puerto Galera, San Teodoro
and Baco in Oriental Mindoro but most are in Occidental Mindoro, particularly
in the municipalities of Abra de Ilog, Paluan, Mamburao and Santa Cruz.

Estel (1952) described the Iraya as having curly or deep wavy hair and dark
skin but not as dark as that of the Negrito.

During ancient times, the Iraya traditional attire was made of dry tree bark,
pounded to make it flat and soft. The women usually wore a blouse and a
skirt and the men wore g-strings made of cloth. Today, however, the Iraya
are dressed just like the lowland people. Ready-to-wear clothes are easier to
find than their traditional costume [Uyan, 2002].

The Irayas are also skilled in nito-weaving. Handicrafts such as jars, trays,
plates and cups of different sizes and design are being marketed to the

They subsist on rice, banana, sweet potato, and other root crops.

An Alangan-Mangyan woman in traditional attire

The Alangan Mangyans live in the municipalities of Naujan, Baco, San

Teodoro, and Victoria in Oriental Mindoro, and in the municipality of
Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro.

The name Alangan was derived from the name of a river and mountain
slopes in the upper Alangan Valley [Leykamm, 1979].

The women traditionally wear a skirt called lingeb. This is made of long
strips of woven nito (forest vines), and is wound around the abdomen. This
is worn together with the g-string called abayen. The upper covering is
called ulango, made from the leaf of the wild buri palm. Sometimes a red
kerchief called limbutong is worn over the ulango. The men wear g-strings
with fringes in front.

The Alangan Mangyans practise swidden farming, which consists of eleven

stages. Two of them are the firebreak-making (agait) and the fallowing
(agpagamas). A firebreak is made so the fire will not go beyond the swidden
site where the vegetation is thoroughly dry and ready for burning. Two years
after clearing, cultivation of the swidden is normally ceased and the site is
allowed to revert back to forest [Quiaoit, 1997].

Betel nut chewing is also noted among the Alangans, like all other Mangyan
tribes. This they chew with great fervor from morning to night, saying that
they don't feel hunger as long as they chew betel nut [Leykamm, 1979].
Nonetheless, betel chewing has a social dimension. Exchange of betel chew
ingredients signifies social acceptance.

Tadyawan Mangyans in Oriental Mindoro [Source: Mangyan Mission]

The Tadyawan Mangyans live in the municipalities of Naujan, Victoria,

Socorro, Pola, Gloria, Pinamalayan, and Bansud.

In the past, the women wore for their upper covering a red cloth
called paypay, which is wound around the breast. For their lower covering,
they wrapped around the waist a white cloth called talapi. The men wore g-
strings called abay. For their accessories, women wore colorful bracelets and
necklaces made of beads. Today the women are rarely seen wearing their
traditional attire, though some men still wear the abay.

Like all other Mangyan tribes, the Tadyawan depend on their "kaingin" farm
for subsistence. Their staple foods are upland rice, banana, sweet potato,
and taro. Some have also planted fruit-bearing trees like rambutan, citrus,
and coffee in their kaingin.

A Tau-buid Mangyan in Occidental Mindoro [Source: Overseas Missionary Fellowship]

The Tau-buids are known as pipe smokers and even children begin smoking
at a young age.

Standard dress for men and women is the loin cloth. In some areas close to
the lowlands, women wrap a knee-length cloth around their bark bra-string
and men wear cloth instead of bark. Bark cloth is worn by both men and
women in the interior and is also used for head bands, women's breast
covers, and blankets. Cloth is made by extracting, pounding and drying the
inner bark of several trees [Pennoyer, 1979].

The Tau-buid Mangyans live in the municipalities of Socorro, Pinamalayan

and Gloria, but mostly in Occidental Mindoro.

A Bangon-Mangyan elder [Source: Mangyan Mission]

The Bangon Mangyans live along the Bongabon river called Binagaw and the
surrounding mountains in the municipalities of Bongabong, Bansud, and
Gloria in Oriental Mindoro.

The Bangon Mangyans have their own culture, language and writing system,
different to the other tribes in Oriental Mindoro, and asserted they be
considered the seventh major tribe – not a sub-tribe of the Tau-buid. In a
March 28, 1996 meeting with Buhid Mangyans in Ogom Liguma, they
decided to accept the word Bangon for their tribe.

A Buhid-Mangyan woman [Source: Mangyan Mission]

The Buhids are known as pot makers. Other Mangyan tribes, like the
Alangan and Hanunuo, used to buy their cooking pots from the Buhids. The
word Buhid literally means "mountain dwellers" [Postma, 1967].

Buhid women wear woven black and white brassiers called linagmon and a
black and white skirt called abol. Unmarried women wear body ornaments
such as a braided nito belt (lufas), blue thread earrings, beaded headband
(sangbaw), beaded bracelet (uksong), and beaded long necklace
(siwayang or ugot). The men wear g-strings. To enhance body beauty, the
men wear ornaments like a long beaded necklace, tight choker (ugot) and
beaded bracelet (uksong). Both sexes use an accessory bag called bay-
ong for personal things like comb and knife [Litis, 1989].

Together with the Hanunuo, the Buhids in some areas possess a pre-Spanish
syllabic writing system.

The Buhid Mangyans live in the municipalities of Roxas, Bansud, Bongabong

and some parts of Mansalay in Oriental Mindoro, and in the municipalities of
San Jose and Rizal in Occidental Mindoro.

A Hanunuo-Mangyan family [Source: Mangyan Mission]

To the Hanunuo, clothing (rutay) is one of the most important criteria in

distinguishing the Mangyan from the non-Manyan (damuong). A Hanunuo-
Mangyan male wears a loin cloth (ba-ag) and a shirt (balukas). A female
wears an indigo-dyed short skirt (ramit) and a blouse (lambung). Many of
the traditional style shirts and blouses are embroidered on the back with a
design called pakudos, based on the cross shape.

This design is also found on their bags made of buri (palm leaf) and nito
(black fern), called bay-ong. Both sexes used to wear a twilled rattan belt
with pocket (hagkos) at their waist. Long hair is the traditional style for a
man. It is tied in one spot at the back of the head with a cloth hair-band
called panyo. Women also have long hair often dressed with a headbands of
beads. The Hanunuo Mangyans of all ages and both sexes are very fond of
wearing necklaces and bracelets of beads [Miyamoto, 1985].

In the past they cultivated cotton trees and from these obtained raw
materials which they wove in a crude hand loom called harablon. The
process of weaving was called habilan, which starts with the gathering of
cotton balls and pilling them to dry in a flat basket (bilao). Afterwards, the
seeds are removed and the cotton placed on a mat and beaten by two flat
sticks to make it fine. Next the cotton is placed inside a container made out
of banana stalks (binuyo) and woven.

Noted anthropologist Harold Conklin made an extensive study on the

Hanunuo-Mangyan agricultural system in 1953. The Hanunuo Mangyans
practise swidden farming. This type of farming is different from the "kaingin"
system practised by non-Mangyans which is often very destructive when it is
done with no proper safeguards to prevent the fire from spreading to the
surrounding vegetation. A fallow period is also observed so that the swidden
farm will revert back to forest. According to Conklin, the Mangyans managed
their swidden farms skillfully. In 1995, almost half a century after Conklin's
research, a study on the Hanunuo Mangyans' swidden farming system was
conducted by Hayama Atsuko. She concluded that the Hanunuo Mangyans'
farming practices have prevented land deterioration in spite of the fact that
forest land degradation is now evident in their territory due to various

Together with their northern neighbor the Buhids, the Hanunuo possess a
pre-Spanish writing system, considered to be of Indic origin, with characters
expressing the open syllables of the language [Postma, 1981]. This syllabic
writing system, called Surat Mangyan, is being taught in several Mangyan
schools in Mansalay and Bulalacao.

The Hanunuo Mangyans live in the municipalities of Mansalay, Bulalacao,

and some parts of Bongabong in Oriental Mindoro, and in the municipality of
San Jose in Occidental Mindoro.

The Ratagnon live in the southernmost part of the municipality of Magsaysay
in Occidental Mindoro. Their language is similar to the Visayan Cuyunon
language, spoken by the inhabitants of Cuyo Island in Northern Palawan.

The Ratagnon women wear a wrap-around cotton cloth from the waistline to
the knees and some of the males still wear the traditional g-string. The
women's breast covering is made of woven nito (vine). They also wear
accessories made of beads and copper wire. The males wear a jacket with
simple embroidery during gala festivities and carry flint, tinder, and other
paraphernalia for making fire. Both sexes wear coils of red-dyed rattan at
the waistline. Like other Mangyan tribes, they also carry betel chew and its
ingredients in bamboo containers.

Ambahans inscribed on plants in a bamboo grove [Source: Antoon Postma]

The ambahan is the traditional poetry of the Hanunuo Mangyans of Oriental

Mindoro. It is usually written on bamboo in the Surat Mangyan, a centuries-
old pre-Spanish script. The syllabic script and the ambahan poetry have
complemented each other, contributing to their continued existence today.

Reproduced here are three extracts from the work of Antoon Postma,
anthropologist and Mangyan historian, and an ambahan anthology arranged
according to the Hanunuo-Mangyan lifecycle.

Introduction to ambahan
Ambahans inscribed on a bamboo slat

The ambahan is a literary product and poetic expression of the Southern

Mangyans of Mindoro, Philippines. Although there are about seven different
ethnic groups living in Mindoro, collectively called the Mangyans, these
groups are quite distinct from each other as to language, customs, and way
of living. Only the ethnic group living in the south of Mindoro, roughly
comprising the areas within the municipalities of Bulalacao (San Pedro),
Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro and San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, claims the
name Mangyan as the descriptive title of their tribe. To stress their point,
they might add the epiteth: "Hanunuo" Mangyan, that is, a "truly, real,
genuine" Manygan.

Together with their northern neighbors, the Buhids, they possess a pre-
Spanish writing system, considered to be of Indic origin, with characters
expressing the open syllables of the language. Two distinct syllabaries are
still in practical use among the ethnic groups in Mindoro, viz. the northern
Buhid on one hand and the southern Buhid with the Hanunuo-Mangyans on
the other. The existence of a writing system among these tribes certainly
accounts largely for the wealth of literature prevalent among them. One of
the literary products, the one written down most frequently on bamboo-
tubes or slats, is the ambahan.

For better understanding and appreciation of the ambahans presented here,

a short outline on the character and use of the ambahan will be given here.

As a definition, it can be stated that the ambahan is:

A. A rhythmic poetic expression with a meter of seven syllable lines and having
rhythmic end-syllables.
B. It is most often presented as a chant without a determined musical pitch or
accompaniment by musical instruments.
C. Its purpose is to express in an allegorical way, liberally using poetic
language, certain situations or certain characteristics referred to by the one
reciting the poem.

The meter of seven syllables in one line is the characteristic of the ambahan
which most obviously distinguishes it from other kinds of Hanunuo-Mangyan
poetry. However, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, more than
seven syllables may be found at the beginning of the ambahan, especially
when it starts with the standard expression magkunkuno (speaks, says)
because the one who "speaks" here may have a long name containing more
than the usual seven syllables. Actually, these first lines should not be
considered as part of the poem proper, but rather as an introduction to or an
explanation of the circumstances which gave rise to the ambahan itself.
Sometimes, there may be more than seven syllables because the employed
word or words cannot be shortened and no other combination of words is
available. On the other hand, a line may contain less than seven syllables in
order to preserve the meaning of the line itself which might be disturbed if
more syllables were added. However, the last exception rarely occurs.

In an effort to conform to the rule of having only seven syllables in each line,
the composer tries to fit his words within the pre-determined quantity of
syllables. This accounts for the many elisions and contactions of words that
make the reading of the ambahan in the Hanunuo-Mangyan script so difficult
and exasperating to the translator. Thus nirwasan comes from niruwasan;
nilkasan from nilukasan; the mono-syllables gin from ginan; u from una.
Conversely, the words may be extended, i.e. syllables may be added in
order to have the required seven syllables. In most cases, the normal
procedure involves the use of affixes and suffixes, both of which are
extensively used in the Philippine languages. The most common one in the
Hanunuo-Mangyan language is the suffix -an. Manok becomes manukan,
balunos becomes balunusan, without a change in meaning. Within the word,
"extensions" may also be found which might be old infixes, no longer
common. So dayap becomes dalayap, layaw becomes lugayaw. Another way
of lengthening a word is by repeating the word itself, not so much to make it
superlative in meaning (e.g. in Tagalog: laking-laki), but rather to complete
the seven syllable requirement.

While it is not my intention to be technical on this point, as a linguist's

analysis of morphological phenomena would be, the foregoing illustrations
demonstrate that the prescribed scheme of seven syllables in ambahan
verse gives ample opportunity for lexical calisthenics, an exercise which may
fascinate many students.

The rhyming end-syllables are an essential feature of the ambahan. The

most common rhyming syllable is -an, being a regular suffix for verbs and
substantives in the Hanunuo-Mangyan language. But other combinations
with the vowel a are rather common too, such as in lines having the end-
syllables: a, ak, ag, ang, as, aw, ay. Here the vowel a is combined with
nearly all the consonants in the Philippine alphabet. In the same way, the
vowels I (or e) and o (or u) can be found as the rhyming syllables, either
alone or in combination, e.g.: I, id, ing, ip, it, and o, od, ok, on, ong, os, ot,

The rhyming in the ambahan is consequent, i.e. once started with -an, all
lines will end in -an. This appears to be in contrast to the rhyming scheme of
a Tagalog poem, where at the end of a line a vowel rhyme may include any
consonant in combination with this vowel. The ambahan is stricter in this
respect, though it is interesting to note that here and there consonants, if
belonging to the same phonetic class, may be included as the rhyming
consonant in combination with the rhyming vowel. Hence, the word inwag
rhymes with ma-ayad because both g and d belong to the phonetic class of
voiced stops. The word humbak rhymes with dagat because both k and t
belong to the phonetic class of voiceless stops. The word sundong, lumon
and tayutom are the end-syllables of one ambahan because ng, n, and m
belong to the phonetic class of voiced sonorants. Of course, it is not because
the Hanunuo-Mangyan knows anything about phonetics that these instances
occur, but it is a fact that the interchanges of these consonants are not
considered violations of the unwritten rules of the ambahan, provided that
the vowel remains the same.

The ambahan is a chanted verse, but it is changed plainly or almost recited.

The rendering of the ambahan with musical pitch might differ from person to
person. Some might intone the words like in common conversation; others
might use it a monotone recitation; or still others might sing it with a distinct
melody. But generally, it can be said that when an ambahan is "sung," there
is only a slight musical pitch discernable, except maybe towards the end,
when the last syllables are drawn out a bit to indicate that the chant is about
to end. Furthermore, it is well worth noting that the ambahan, is "sung"
without the accompaniment of musical instruments, as differentiated from
another kind of Mangyan verse, the urukay, which is preferably chanted to
the accompaniment of the homemade guitar.

One who has a knowledge of the language of the Hanunuo-Mangyans as it is

used in their daily conversation, will be able to understand very little of the
language that is used in the ambahan. The language used in the ambahan
differs from the spoken language, though many a word used widely in the
daily Hanunuo-Mangyan language is also used in the ambahan-vocabulary.
It is quite possible to compile a long list of words (eventually a complete
dictionary) that are used only in the ambahan verse, but, for the purpose of
this book, only a few words need to be mentioned.

Conversational language Ambahan language English

amang bansay father

inang suyong mother

danom kagnan water

balay labag house

niyog bu-anay coconut

bagaw duyan talk

mata pamidkan eye

That the words of the ambahan vocabulary are found not only in the
ambahan of the Hanunuo-Mangyans but also in the literary products of the
neighboring Mangyan tribes, seems to be a significant coincidence worth
investigating, especially if it is remembered that these other tribes use a
conversational language different from the Hanunuo-Mangyan language.
Some questions that would confront the investigator are the following:
Where do these ambahan words come from? Are there other dialects in the
Philippines from which they may have been derived? Or do we have to turn
our attention to other countries like Indonesia or India to get an
explanation? Here is a potential field of research that should give a linguist
enough material to work on.
In some of the ambahans here presented, it will be noticed that the theme is
about a bird, a flower, a tree, or an insect. Other ambahans, though not
nature poems in the strict sense of the term, deal with the sun, the moon,
the stars, the rain and the wind. When a Mangyan poet writes of a flower, he
writes of itnot for the purpose of celebrating its beauty or fragrance but to
make it an allegory or a symbol of human life, it's problems, and its
challenges. Sometimes the symbolism of a bird or flower may be clear
enough, as when a boy talks to his girl about "a beautiful flower that he
would like to bring home." Very often, however, one symbol may refer to
different conditions or circumstances and, thus, becomes a multiple symbol.
An examination of ambahan no. 114 will help clarify this point. What does
the poem mean? First, it means simply what it says: "Be careful, or you will
be stung by a bee. Take precautions in getting honey." This would be the
literal interpretation of the poem. The added meaning of allegorical
interpretation would depend, of course, on the occasion and circumstances,
such as climbing a mountain, going to sea, going to town, engaging in a
contest with another person, or going to the parents to ask for the hand of
their daughter. The complex set of meanings thus woven into an ambahan
are gradually unravelled only after the poem had been analyzed with much
care and patience.

A related study which is worth mentioning at this point would be an

investigation into the psychological motivation for the Mangyan's frequent
use of plants, animals, and nature symbols and their predilection for
allegorical poetry.

[Postma, Antoon SVD. Treasure of a Minority. Manila: Arnoldus Press, Inc.,


The origin of the ambahan

A Hanunuo-Mangyan woman chanting an ambahan at a community ambahan session
[Source: Antoon Postma]

If you ask a Hanunuo-Mangyan, "Where did you get this ambahan?," he will
most likely answer, "I copied it from somebody else." That is quite probable,
for the ambahan has been popularized by being copied on any piece of
bamboo, such as the container for tobacco or apog (lime), the scabbard or
sheath of a bolo, a violin or guitar, and even on the bamboo beams of a
house. When a Mangyan discovers a nice ambahan, he uses his knife to
engrave it on bamboo, in the age-old Indic-derived script. Thus, he has
"copied" it.

In answer to the same question, another Mangyan may reply, "We obtained
this from our forefathers." Most of the ambahans they possess now have
been handed down from parents to children through continuos copying. Yet
there is no doubt that new ambahans are still being written today by the
poets or composers, although it is hard to find out who these poets are. A
Mangyan would never admit that he is composing ambahans.

To determine the approximate time in which an ambahan was written, two

criteria may be suggested: the subject and the kind of words used.

The first criterion cannot be applied without reservation, for the subject of
the ambahan is sometimes very general and true of any period. But if we
find reference in the ambahan to Moro attacks or to Mangyans still living
along the sea-shore, we are on surer ground, for the attacks of the Moros
are known to have occurred at a certain time, and the Mangyans lived along
the shores before the non-Mangyans settled on the island. On the other
hand, when an ambahan poet writes of going to America, the poem is
certain to have been written in modern times.

The second criterion, the kind of words used, is more reliable and, if used by
experts, would be a more certain indication of the age of the ambahan. By
using this criterion, ambahans may be categorized into three classes.

The first type is the ambahan that only uses the poetic language with a
minimum of contemporary words. Sometimes common Hanunuo-Mangyan
words are used, but this type of ambahan restricts itself mainly to the use of
literary words, i.e. words not used in daily conversation. According to the
Mangyans themselves, this is the oldest kind of ambahan.

The next type of ambahan is that in which words borrowed from neighboring
tribes, especially the Buhid tribe, are used. Frequent contact with this tribe
has made the Hanunuo-Mangyans accept these borrowed words and
expressions which found their way into their ambahans.

Lastly, there is the ambahan of later times, in which loan-words from

Spanish, Tagalog or Bisaya are evident.

The painstaking study by linguists of the words used in the ambahan may
supply the final answer to the question of the time in which an ambahan was

[Postma, Antoon. Mangyan Treasures. Manila: Arnoldus Press, Inc., 1995.]

The ambahan and its uses

Hanunuo-Mangyan poems in the Mangyan syllabic script inscribed on
betel nut containers made of bamboo

The ambahans are very common among the Hanunuo-

Mangyans. About thirty percent of the Hanunuo-Mangyans do
not read or write the pre-Spanish Hanunuo-Mangyan script, but
it would be rare indeed for a Mangyan not to know the art of
the ambahan. Of course, a Mangyan will quickly deny any
knowledge of the ambahan, but this is only a polite way of
refusing to demostrate such knowledge. People who have tried
to collect ambahans will be the first to admit the difficulty of
making the Mangyans recite the ambahans outside of the
proper occasion for doing it.

Aside from the Hanunuo-Mangyans, the neighboring Mangyan

tribes also know about the ambahan. Though the actual extent
to which the ambahan is known by these other tribes has not
been fully investigated, it is certain that this type of poetry is
also common among the Buhid-Mangyans. The language of the
Buhid is completely different from that of the Hanunuo-
Mangyans, but one may still partly understand the literary
products of the other. The ambahan can also be found among
the tribes living deep in the mountains of Mindoro. These
natives go down to the lowlands very rarely, and on one of
these occassions I was lucky enough to acquire some copies of
their ambahans. The Hanunuo-Mangyans do not understand
much of it, except when exclusive ambahan words are used.
However, before anything more authoritative can be said on
this matter, one must explore the field further. The verse of the
Iraya-Mangyans (in the north of Mindoro) is also very similar to
the ambahan-type, i.e. they also have the characteristic
heptasyllabic meter and rhyming end-syllables.

Ambahans are known and recited by Hanunuo-Mangyans, both

old and young. Of course, different ambahans will be
appropriate for different age groups.

The children definitely have their own kind of ambahans,

something which might be considered as the equivalent of our
nursery rhymes. However, even in these rhymes all the
elements of the ambahan are present; the main distinction lies
in the simplicity of the language used. The ambahans for
children, however, are short, most of them containing not more
than six lines.

A boy (kan-akan) and a girl (daraga) would be familiar with the

ambahans fit for them, but once they are married, they would
acquaint themselves with the ones that are appropriate for
their new state of life.

Like all poetry, the ambahan is an expression of an idea or

feeling in a beautiful and harmonious language. Unlike other
forms of poetry , however, the ambahan is not poetry for its
own sake or for the poet's satisfaction. The ambahan is
primarily a poem of social character; it finds its true existence
in society. It is created by the Mangyans to serve practical
purposes within the community. It is used by the parents in
educating their children, by young people in courting each
other, by a visitor in asking for food and by a relative bidding
goodbye or farewell. Of course, it would be a mistake to think
that the Mangyans converse with each other only by the
ambahan. If a man comes from his field, he would not use an
ambahan to tell his wife that he is hungry; he will express the
feeling of his stomach in plain and clear language. But
generally speaking, the ambahan is used on those occasions
when something embarrassing, unpleasant, delicate or even
precious (as love) has to be said. For instance, a boy may tell a
girl in plain language that he will never forget her, but it would
sound so much nicer if he were to do so in an ambahan.

The social nature of the ambahan has given rise to a kind of

verbal contest. Whenever Mangyans are together, a few of
them (often the older generation) will eagerly compete with
each other in the ability to recite the ambahan called for by the
place and the occasion. Among these occasions are festivities
held in connection with reburial. One Mangyan might challenge
another with an ambahan, for example. This starts the contest.
The people gather around the two contestants (without
agreement, without rules, without bets), listening intently to
the ambahans recited alternately by the two opponents. Each
ambahan recited is an answer to the problem or theme
propounded in the ambahan preceeding it. Both contestants
are lustily cheered and encouraged by their supporters. In
most cases, the one who recites last is declared the winner.
The contest may go deep into the night. Whether one or the
other wins is unimportant; what matters most is the
entertainment derived from the contest.

A few final remarks about the translation of the ambahan may

still be of interest. A researcher who happens to be in the
mountains of Mansalay and becomes acquainted with the
ambahan will become enthusiastic about it and may even want
to translate some of them into his own language. But before he
can translate the ambahan, he must study the ancient Indic
script. After having mastered it well, he will find out to his
dismay, that he still cannot read everything written on the
bamboo. This is due to the fact that the script itself does not
show the final consonant of each syllable. When he has
overcome the disappointment, he will probably try to get an
ambahan written down in clear, readable letters. Tape-
recording the ambahan would take away the initial difficulties
of copying from script. However, even then he will not
understand all the implications of the ambahan unless the
Mangyan can explain it.

In translating an ambahan, we find a special difficulty arising

from the symbolic meaning of the words used. The Mangyan
may supply the applied allegorical meaning but he might not
understand the literal meanings of certain words. The meanings
of these words can often be discovered because of the frequent
use of repetition of ideas. Sometimes complete lines may be
repetitions of the same idea in synonymous words.

Before the ambahan can be completely understood, it is

imperative to collect as many samples of the ambahan as
possible. This is the main work being done at present in this
field. A detailed comparison of specimens, sifting and
classifying words, and careful experiments in translating the
words into another context have to be done by experts in this
field of research. Only then will the ambahan emerge in the
fullness of its beauty and signification.

The present anthology of ambahans is selected from a

collection that started in 1958. In preparing this selection, it
was not an easy task to decide on the best way of grouping or
arranging these ambahans. It was finally decided to observe a
dual system in classifying these Mangyan poems. The first
system is to take the obvious and literal meaning as expressed
by the poem. The second is the allegorical or applied meaning
that can be gleaned from the ambahan. With this dual system
in mind, the ambahans in this collection have been arranged
according tot he life-cycle of the Hanunuo-Mangyans. Hence,
this collection of ambahans starts with the cradle and ends with
the grave. It is believed that this arrangement is the most
[Postma, Antoon SVD. Treasure of a Minority. Manila: Arnoldus
Press, Inc., 1981.]

Ambahan: Birth and infancy

Since the aim of this collection of ambahans is to present a cross-section of
the Mangyan poetic verse with respect to the life-cycle of the Mangyans, the
first ambahans, to be chronological, should pertain to the first chapters of
human life.

The following series of common cradle songs in ambahan style might be a

fine illustration of how the songs can be different in rhyme and metaphor
whereas the underlying theme is the same.

Ambahan 3

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Huwag ka ngang
My dear baby, do not cry
'cause the wild cat might
Hala ka at mapukaw
hear us!
Pusang-ligaw sa
The big one from over
with his awful long-
stretched howl!
Wala kitang
Helpless are we if he comes.
Our spear is broken still
Sibat nati'y nawasak
and our bolo bent and
Gulok nati'y

Ambahan 4

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 4

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Don't be noisy, baby dear!

H'wag ka ngang
The wild iro might come
May laog nanunubok
The one out of the deep
Mula gubat susugod
Wala kitang
How to fight him when he
Sibat nati'y napulpol
Broken is our spear in two
Itak ay anong purol!
and our bolo disappeared!

Ambahan 5

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

You, my baby, don't make

Anak, 'wag kang
Some strange animal
might come,
Hala ka, may bakulaw!
coming from across the
Sa dahilig do'n buhat
Tutuktok sa suliras
Knocking on the house,
Kay tulis ng galamay
he will,
Wala kitang pamatay
with his glittering sharp
Tong itak walang
No weapons for us to kill;
Kinalawang 'yang
our bolo we cannot use,
rusty is our spear and
Ambahan: Childhood
Sweet are the memories of our childhood. For the Mangyan child, it is a time
of unconcern and carefreeness, even if the child has to take his share of the
family duties to the measure of his capacities. It is with feelings of
sentimentality and homesickness that a young man recalls the happy years
of his youth that passed away too fast. It is also with pride that he
remembers the love and kindness shown to him by his parents.

Ambahan 6 (4)

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 6 (4)

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

That time, when I was

still young,
(I was just a baby still)
when I sat on mother's
lap, Noong ako'y muraan
when she rocked me in a Sanggol na sanggol pa
crib, lang
in a cradle newly made. Karga pa sa kandungan
Mommy lulling me Inuugoy sa duyan
asleep, Sa kagagawang duyan
did not leave me in a Hinehele ni Nanay
crib, Hindi n'ya iniiwan
in her arms she cradled Sapo n'ya sa
me. kandungan
Oh, how sweet these O kay gandang
memories! nagdaan!
wish I could climb once Muli sanang mahimlay
again Sa banayad na duyan
in the cradle lovely Nang tunay kong
made! mamasdan
So I could be showing off Paglaki kong kariktan
how I grew so Kayong taga-baybayan
beautifully! Maging taga-burulan
You, the people from the Kung maaring
shore, puntahan
people from the Pasyalan at pagmasdan
mountains too, Punong
could you just come here namumukadkad
this way! Alaala kailanman!
Visit me just once again,
the unfolding, blooming
I'll recall this all my life.
But there is also the obedient child who has his important task in the whole
of the family work: watching that the products in the field will not be
destroyed by the wild animals.

Ambahan 13

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

The reason why I am here,

walking along hills and
because Mother has told
and my Father he just Sanhi po ng paglakad
said: sa kabundukan
"Better go and have a Ang bilin po ni Inang
look, Kay Ama'y kawikaan:
at the field we have "Pumar'on iho't
prepared. tingnan
Monkeys might be eating Kaingin nating hawan
there Baka matsi'y lamunan
and the pigs destroying Baboy ay mag-
plants." arumbang"
So I went and had a look Akin nang pinuntahan
at the field we have Kaingin nating hawan
prepared. Matsin ay wala naman
But no monkeys eating Ni baboy na ligaw man
there, Anu't aking namasdan
and no pigs destroying Merong ibong 'liitan
plants. Sa kainging hinawan
However, what I did see, Sa gilid na taniman
was a bird, still rather Baka bukas nandiyan
small, Pagdatal ng anihan!
sitting on the field we
at the borders of the field.
Maybe one day it'll be
when the rice is ripe and
Ambahan 13

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino


Children, however, are the same everywhere. Romping around with their
playmates, they produce a deafening noise, often to the despair of their

Ambahan 15

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Sure, the kids they are not

but, say, who would not get Kahit bata'y mabait
mad! Sinong di maiinis
When from morning until Buong araw at gabi
night Iritan d'ya't kagalit
all this noise, right at your Awayan d'yan sa
side, inggit!
and those fights on top of

Ambahan: Adolescence
The transition from the dependent child into the self-sufficient
young man or woman is not marked by initiation ceremonies or
induction rites. In some things, children are given
independence at an early age. In other things, they continue to
act dependently.
Ambahan 27

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Mother carried me around.

Father always at my side. Kinakalong ni Nanay
I, the baby, was still Kinakandong ni Tatay
small: Sadya pang
just a little child I was. kamusmusan
Going to the field to work, Tunay akong paslit
Father led me by the lang
hand. Hangang sa kaingin
Even speaking simple man
words 'Sinasama ni Tatay
as a babe I did not know. Kahit pa utal-utal
But now everything has Sanggol na walang
changed. muwang
The small baby has grown Ngunit nang magka-
up. minsan
Now the baby understands Lumaki't magkagulang
all the words that Father Akin namang nalaman
speaks, Kay Tatay, kawikaan
Everything that mother Kay Nanay, kasabihan
says. Malayo mang lakaran
Even when I'm walking Saan man ang abutan
far, Kung kasam-an ang
when I travel far away datnan
and it becomes dangerous Sila lang ang uwian!
I'll return immediately.

Then the day comes when adolescence ends. The parents know
now that there is not much hope that the young people will do
things the way the parents want them to do. The young man
goes his way, and nobody can direct him anymore.

Ambahan 30
Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Says the lobster in the Sabi ng hipong sapa:

creek: Kahit mo man
Even if you place a dam, bakuran
I will jump it high and neat! May lusot, paraan pa!

The character of the youngster is fixed now. Even if there are

traits the parents do not like, these traits can no longer be
changed. Wherever he is, the young adult will behave in his
accustomed manner and will not change his attitudes because
of others.

Ambahan 31

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Pigeon, with a shortened

Hoy, ibong Balud-balod
Libanin mo ma'y
even there across the
Pungos pa rin 'yang
you won't be a

Ambahan: Courtship
Many pages of sweet-flowing romances have been written about courtship,
but the Mangyans create their own by using the examples of the budding
and flowering plants and trees around them.

Ambahan 38
Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Kawayan sa Marigit
The bamboo in Marigit
Pag tanaw ko, palapit
That I saw at first approach
Labong pa siyang kay
Was just sprouting and still
Nang daanan ko
When I saw it yesterday,
It was standing firm and
Siksikan mga tinik
Mainam nang pang-
Ready now to build a floor.

Ambahan 39

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

The palm bordering my

Back when it was very Buli sa may kaingin
small Noong s'ya pa'y
My attention did not call. musmusin
But now that it's fully- Hindi ko pinapansin
grown Nang gumulang,
and has shed its dried-up pagsapit
leaves, Tanggi ko ang lumain
I will harvest it so fresh Sariwa kong kukunin
and weave me a basket Bayong kong lalalain
fair. Lagi kong sasakbitin!
That I can bring

A boy has his way of convincing a girl of his good intentions and intimate
love. He is willing to sacrifice anything for his beloved.

Ambahan 68
Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

My sweetheart, my love so
O liyag, aking hirang
when I left, in coming
Kanina nang lumisan
Galing sa 'king
coming from my house and
Palay na inanihan
all the rice that I have
Akin lang iniwanan
Hinangad kong
I have left it there behind,
because I hope here to find
Di basta palay lamang
one more valued than my
Sa lakad sa ilog man
Maging sa
One to be my partner nice
to the water, to the field,
Kaakbay ko saan man
a companion on my trips,
Kaabay sa higaan!
and one who will share my

Ambahan: Home
To give a sample of all the various aspects of the home life within a Mangyan
settlement would be next to impossible. However, an attempt to draw a
general outline will be undertaken here. Two great themes can be
considered of importance in the life-cycle of a Mangyan: 1) His struggle for
life in and around his house, to keep hunger and sickness away; and, 2) His
unbelievable ability to relax, be happy and unconcerned, often by escaping
from his immediate surroundings.

What does a Mangyan home look like? His house is not as important as a
house is to his countrymen of modern culture. A Mangyan will be the first to
admit that his house is of poor construction and just a temporary dwelling.

Ambahan 102

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 102

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

This the forest Mangyan

"What I have to tell you,
Sabi ng isang
I've been thinking of for
Ang wika ko'y
Your existence is not bad
Ito ngang kaisipan—
In the lowlands where you
Mabuti ang 'yong
There the houses that you
Ikaw, taga-kapatagan
Kaya taga-baybayan
Are built with beams of the
Tabla ay ilang-ilang
Nagsahig nang
Like your floors all made of
Kaming taga-burulan
But we to the mountains
Kaya nasa burulan
aming kabihasnan
Who have lived here for so
Sahig ay patpatan
Kugon lang ang
Our houses are not like
May taling baling-
Our floor is of bamboo
Datapwa't 'to'y
Our roof made of cogon
H'wag naman
All of it is tied with vines.
But to that I have to add.
Ibon sa may igiban
Don't forget that we can
Bukal itong inuman
Na kay lilim kung
Very near the water source
Where the birds all come to
A cool, shady place to be."
After all, life is hard and a Mangyan has to spend most of his time eking out
a subsistence for himself, so the house itself is of little importance.

Ambahan 103

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Your condition is quite

good Dampa mo'y
and your house is kainaman
beautiful. Bahay n'yo pong
The walls made gandahan
of banban leaves, May dingding
still enforced with bamboo na banban
poles. Patukurang kawayan
But we, living out-of-doors, Kaming nasa bakuran
we, the mountains dwellers Kaming taga-burulan
up, Di dapat paghanapan
if we did not have to Di dapat panghinaan
search Wala pong karupukan
for some food to stay alive, Di dapat
we could also be so wise, manghinayang
we could also find these Dahil masisilayan
ways! Yaong buling
But the only thing we find, gandahan!
is a sago palm for food!

Even if the construction is nice and strong, the day will come that the house
will be torn apart by the ripping blasts of wind.

Ambahan 105

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 105

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Climbing vine with the long Hoy, uway na

leaves, lambaan
leaves symmetrical and fine, Malamba ang dahon
how very nice looks your man
stem! Ang puno'y
But, they say, you'll be kainaman—
blown down Kung nasa daraanan
by the tempest from the Bagyo'y galing
shore! 'patagan!

Ambahan: Problems
But at home, life is not always as pleasant as the Manygans would like it to
be. There are dark days when the future doesn't look very bright. These
dark days have to be overcome.

Ambahan 113

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Balkawi, my climbing vine,
punong Balkawihan
You're not happy in that
Pangit ang tinubuan
Dahon mo'y
Your fine leaves are
ripping there
Puno mo'y
And your poor stem creaks
and cries.
Muling itanim na lang
I have to replant you now
Sa payapang hanginan
In a place where you will
Sa walang
Free from rain and gusty
Ambahan 113

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino


There are the domestic misunderstandings that might arise; the simple
accidents that might happen.

Ambahan 115

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

kong Balanti
Sticks from the balanti tree
Kung timbang iyang
If you cut them properly
From the depth they will
Taginting ay mabini
Kung tabtab mali-
But if cut improperly
All you get is awful noise.

There is no reason, however, to be as upset about a domestic

misunderstanding or a simple accident as about a great disaster.

Ambahan 117

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 117

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

What is the matter with you

that you are so much Bakit ka
upset? nagkaganyan?
Like the heavens coming Ang ulo mo'y kay init
down, Bagsak ang
as if the whole sky kalangitan
collapsed! Parang bayang
Even rain will stop some guhuan
day, Pagtila nitong ulan
but rain doesn't own a Ula'y walang tahanan
house! Hihinto ang
A storm will not last all ampiyasan
time, Hangi'y walang
but storm has no place like uwian
you! Di ba't tao ka naman
Are you not a human? Man? Di ba't may
Doesn't man always go babalikan
back Sa kawayang
to his dwelling place, his daluyan!

Ambahan: Sickness
Sickness is unavoidable in human life. A person who is ill can easily be
recognized. Sometimes, whatever is done, all treatment seems to be in vain.
But there is always a treatment that's been forgotten.

Ambahan 131

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 131

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Itong ulong makirot

This my problem, my
Dinalit na't ginamot
Niritwal na sa bulong
I had called the doctors all,
Ayaw pong
had it treated frequently
but my headache didn't go.
Parang bagyong
Like the storm not calming
Laging unang
like the rain that doesn't
Lalo itong tumibok
it was even getting worse:
Sa bunbunan paloob
my head almost cracking
Datapwa't iyang
But the final medicine,
Ikaw, sa 'king
why did I not think of it?
We must love each other
Ay karamay kong
Then the problem will be
Huhupa na ang kirot
Sa hangin ipasaklot
carried along by the wind,
Sa gubat ipataklob
covered by the forest trees,
Lalaho na ang
and we will be sad no more.

A serious condition might develop. The usual treatments are of little help.

Ambahan 132

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 132

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Says Yumay, when feeling

Panawagan ni Yumay
Si Daog tawag tawag
Daog, I am calling you.
Pakay niya sa lakad
I am coming all the way
Si Daog sa may
to visit your house, Daog.
I would like to ask from
Ako nawa'y tulungan
Sa bulong mong
if you could apply your wit,
have me treated with your
Sa mabisa mong
The main reason for all
Kaya nga
my problem, my headache
Masakit ang uluhan
Pito mang patas-unan
treated seven times in
Kirot pa'y palagian
Huwag sana, h'wag
still the sickness doesn't
Sakit waring
I am worried and I think
that this sickness will result
Tiyak na kamatayan!
finally into my death.

Why don't the treatments work? Maybe all the requirements of offerings to
the spirits were not properly fulfilled.

Ambahan 133

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 133

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Says the spirit of Wika ng lamang-

the spring: lupa
What has been your Apo Ilog
offering? nagbanta:
Softly cooked rice, Handog na
there was none, kani'y wala
Not a chicken, even Ni manok na
one! 'hinanda
Only some fruits Bungang-kahoy
from a tree! lamang ba
What else could the Ambo'y
answer be umampiyas nga
but rains and a Hangin ay
hurricane hagunot na
hitting house and Sa kabila ng
yard again. dampa
What are you going Anong ibibigay
to do? pa
Incantation might Bibigkas ng
help you dasal ba?
or a seer and his Uusal ng dalit ha
wit! Ganyang
Maybe he can solve magmatigas ka
your case Hanggang
and prevent further katapusan pa!
disgrace. Sumagot ang
Says the one sinama:
responsible: Kayo, Poon ng
You, dear spirit of sapa
the well, H'wag kapootan
Please, do hide nawa
your angriness! Alay namin,
It's my fault, I do dulog na
confess. Sa sahig
I'll bring the best nagmumula
from my floor Sa sumpa po'y
Ambahan 133

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

that you will iadya!

complain no more.

Ambahan: Food and work

Obtaining food keeps the Mangyans busy for most of the year:
selecting and preparing the field; sowing the carefully kept
seed; weeding and cleaning the plants; harvesting the most
precious food, cotton-white mountain rice. Unfortunately, an
ideal harvest depends on an exact amount of sun, wind and
rain. Often though, an extensive drought, a nasty typhoon or
prolonged monsoon rains effect the opposite result, hardship
and scarcity of food. It is therefore, no wonder that the
Mangyans worry about their crops a great deal.

Rice is a food the Mangyans enjoy. After they have harvested

their rice, it seems that there will never come an end to their
supplies. But, before they realize it, gone is all their hope and

Ambahan 136

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 136

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

This kind of rice,

Ang palay kong
When I saw for the first
Nang minsan kong
The stalks were heavy
Uhay ay sangkatutak
with grain.
Nang balikan ko't
When I returned and
looked again,
Uhay ay
Empty and flat were the

Ambahan 137

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

The little black bird Sawi, Ibong si Sawi-sawi

So hereabouts its was told, Noon pa man ang
Had a tail long and pretty. huni
But the bird when it grew Buntot, mahabang
big, dili
Tail, alas, shorter it grew, Subalit nang lumaki
Struck by lightning as storm Buntot ko ay umiksi
blew. Kinidlat, binuhawi!

Whether one likes it or not, it is necessary to work hard in

order to keep his stomach filled. He has to work hard even if he
has the help of the spirits.
Ambahan 139

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Our good and precious soil: Ating lupang payapa

Would it be as beautiful Paano pa gaganda
if we did not work and toil? Kung di tayo gumawa
Very soon it would be Dagli 'yang
waste. mawawala!

Ambahan: Traveling
As a relief from his struggle for life, the Mangyan sometimes goes traveling.

The moment will come when the Mangyan cannot be kept tied any longer to
his house and the daily chores. He has to go, whether it is opportune or not.
The woman, however, is not as fortunate as the man; she is tied to her
home, especially when her children are still small. In spite of that, she would
also like to go out once in a while. The parents should be, therefore,
understanding and reasonable.

Ambahan 164

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

This journey that I must

Iring aking pagpasyal
Kung mali po ang asal
Tell me please what's
Ako ay kagalitan
wrong with it,
O Tatay ko, O Inay
And please explain how,
Ngunit kung
Father and mother
H'wag sanang
But then if there's magtungayaw?
nothing wrong,
Ambahan 164

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Then why scold me for so


The following ambahan is a special bit of advice to those with the unpleasant
ringworm skin disease.

Ambahan 166

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Little bird, Balinayaw,

When the sun is fading Ay naku ibong Balaw
fast, Kung pusyaw na ang
Better not to walk araw
outside, Huwag ka ngang
For your colors will stand galawgaw
out Kulay mo ay lilitaw
On the leafless Sa panot na Limpayaw!

Just as the speed of those who travel differs, so the character also differs.

Ambahan 178

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 178

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Take my bird,
the bidlawan,
whistling loud and flying Ibong kong si
far, Bidlawan
still he will always come Sakaling ngang liparan
back Babalik pa rin iyan
to the house wherein we Sa 'ming dampang
dwell. pugaran
But the bird alipasang Ang ibong layang-
whistling loud and flying layang
far, Kung puma-ilanglang
he will not come back Wala na pong balikan
again Sa pugad na tahanan!
to the house wherein we

Ambahan: Hospitality and friendship

When a traveler arrives at a house he wont be afraid that he may not be
welcome. Hospitality is considered the highest of virtues among the

Ambahan 181

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 181

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Katoto kong
My dear friend, be welcome
Saan ka ba
Where, perchance, did you
Sa baybayin bang
come from?
From the seashore ebbing
Nasunson ba ng
from the bubbling water
Kung sa bukal ng
If from the water source up,
Halina at magniig
let us talk a moment here,
Sa kwentuhan
in a happy, friendly way.
mong ibig
Even whoever you are,
Di-kilala ma't batid
we like to be at your side.
Makapiling ka'y

Sitting together on the balcony in the soft moonlight, the Mangyan feel
inspired. Friendship is great!

Ambahan 198

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 198

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Kay liwanag ng
Look! The moon so full and
Sa balkunahe'y
shining in front of the house!
Paano naging
How can you explain to me,
that the rays are soft and
Luningning ay
If a man like us he were,
Kung tao s'yang
I would hold him by the
Pipigilan kong tiyak
Seize the hair to keep him
Sa buhok, siya'y
Grasp the clothes to make
Siguro sa damit
him stay!
But how could I manage
Pa'no mapipigilan
May buwang
It is the moon in the sky!
The full moon shining so
Bituing kumikislap
May bundok
going down beyond the hills,
disappearing from the plain,
May hinamugang
out of sight behind the
May tuktok na

The visitor will be home again, but the memory of his good friends will
remain forever.

Ambahan 205

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 205

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

You, my friends, dearest of

Lugod kong kaibigan
thinking of you makes me
Kung kita'y pag-isipan
May ilog sa pagitan
Rivers deep are in
May gubat sa harapan
Ngunit kung
forests vast keep us apart.
But thinking of you with
Parang nasa tabihan
Kapiling sa
as if you are here nearby
standing, sitting at my

Ambahan: Marriage
Although the courtship period has a varied set of rules and ceremonials, the
marriage itself is as simple as possible. After the consent of the parents has
been obtained, the unceremonial first sleep of both the spouses together is
considered as wedlock itself.

In the ambahan literature, a major part revolves around the perennial theme
of married life and all its ramifications. After many years of living together,
does the husband still remember his promise that he gave as an ardent

When difficulties arise, the Mangyans try to smooth them out themselves.

Ambahan 210

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 210

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

If the ties you use at home

Panali ma'y
Become weak and tend to
Uway iyan na gapok
You should be the one to
Ikaw itong susubok
Magtitibay nang
The one to restore their

The following advice is worthwhile to remember!

Ambahan 231

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Even with disharmony Kahit may kaguluhan

and a quarrel now and then. May tampuha't alitan
No reason to separate. Di dapat talikuran
Try to understand it first! Unawain mo naman!

Parting for a longer period of time is sad for the couple.

Ambahan 234

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 234

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Kab'yak kong
My dear fragrant herb, my halimuyak
wife, Kita ma'y
it is true, we have to part, magkawalay
on this day and on this Ngayon at lumaon
hour. man
If united we remain Kung buklod ay
and our bond is strong and matibay
pure, Maayos ang samahan
you and I, far as we are, Ikaw nga at ako man
it's like holding hands Magkahawak ng
again, kamay
it's like sitting side by side. Wari'y nasa

Ambahan: Old age

Sharing their love, the happy couple grows old together.

Old age in Mangyan society is not given special status and

special privileges. As long as anyone is able to keep up, he is
expected to take part in daily work. It is, therefore, not
surprising to see the old and feeble people working side by side
with the younger generations in the rice fields. However, the
irrevocable advance of time is felt by the elder generation. It is
something that can't be changed.

Ambahan 235
Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

It's a fact we all know, Di ba't totoo naman

a truth wherever we go: Katunayan saan man
the sun in the afternoon Araw sa kataasan
will be setting very soon. Ay lulubog rin naman.

Among themselves, the older generation talk about the time

when they will no longer be together. Will there still come
another day after this night?

Ambahan 237

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

At this hour of the dark

Sa sandaling
we are still together now
Kahit kita magtipan
on the woven sleeping-mat.
Sa banig na higaan
But when the sun rises
Pagsikat nitong araw
and the stars become
Buklod nati'y
our bond might break up
Pagkikita'y daratal
When we'll ever meet
Paningi'y mapawi
it is not with mortal eyes,
May bagong
but the eye-sight of the

The thought of death is quietly accepted by a Mangyan. It is

not the frightful and horrible event that is feared so much by
the lowland Christians. For a Mangyan, death is part of the life
cycle of every human being; it is looked upon as something
that will bring a definite change in life, mostly for the better,
not for the worst. Especially when the Mangyan gets old, he
likes to think of death as the moment that will bring him back
again to his beloved who went ahead of him.

Ambahan 242

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Wika ng isang
Says the man, already old, Mangyan
thinking of life after death: Isip ang kamatayan
When I leave, it will be Kung yayao't
nice. papanaw
I will whistle, I will yell Sipol akong hihiyaw
on the highest mountain Sa landas sa
peaks. 'bundukan
Yes, one day I will be glad; Kung dumatal ang
I will see my wife again! asam
Many things we'll have to Pagtagpo natin
say! hirang
Then I won't want to come Sa usal ay puspusan
back. Papanaw nang

Ambahan: Death
When physical life comes to an end, the soul departs for another place.

The moment of dying, this singular experience, is vividly remembered

afterwards by the soul, especially if death came during an agonizing

Ambahan 246
Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Taghoy ng kaluluwa:
Says the soul remembering: Kanina nang lumisan
Just a while ago at home, Sa dampa kong
in the house I used to stay, tahanan
My body was really bad, Katawan ko'y
lying sickly on the mat, naghihirap
though not ready yet to go. Sa banig na higaan
Scared to death I really Di pa lumilisan
was! Balisang nagpaalam
I was going to the right Pa-biling-biling
and to left, back and forth! naman
So confused I was that Pakaliwa't pakanan
time! Sige na nga kung
Now, my body laid at rest, ganyan
finally I took a bath Ako na ay lilisan
in the waters for the soul. Liligo sa hugasan
I am starting on my way Sa tubig dalisayan
to the place my father went, Sa bago kong
and where Mother joined hantungan
him, too. Sa tabihan ni Amang
Kapiling na si Inang!

Tragic, also is the Mangyan who died out of misery and chagrin because of
the hardship he had to deal with! We do not know what his problems were
or who caused them, but that he had some is clear from his explanation!

Ambahan 251

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ambahan 251

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

These are the words of

the soul:
Who would finally not
My house on the
mountain slope
Hinagpis ng kalul'wa:
in the darkness of the
Sinong di masasaktan
Bahay ko sa tarikan
hurricanes were howling
Kung gabi at karimlan
Ang hangin ay bugsuan
When the sun was in the
Kung araw ay sikatan
Ambon ay ampiyasan
the shower came lashing
Saklot ng habagat man
Pispis nga ng amihan
All the southern typhoon
Tutok doo't bugsuan
Kang ganyan rin nga
all the north-western
Sa dampa na'y lilisan
my house they were
hitting hard!
That was exactly the
No wonder I left the

All this information comes from the realm of the dead, furnished by the
deceased themselves! Communicating with the souls or spirits of the dead is
nothing extraordinary for the Mangyans. These are those persons who
possess the power to strike up a conversation with the spirits by means of a
medium or daniw. The conversation resembles a séance among spiritualists.

The Mangyan who grieves about the death of a dear one likes to avail
himself of the services of a daniw in order to see if the soul of the deceased
cannot be convinced to come back and join his earthly body again. Positive
results are said to be known, but they are not recorded in the ambahan
verse. The ambahan samples available only relate the failure of the daniw
and the decisiveness of the soul to continue his course in the other life.

Ambahan 252

Hanunuo-Mangyan English Filipino

Ang wika
nitong Daniw:
Says the seer's medium:
Kalul'wa, hoy
You, soul, can you tell me
Takot ka ba at
why is it you were so scared,
that time when you left the
Sa tahana'y umalis
Kung malignong
Wasn't a spirit from the
Ligtas nating talunin
If so, I took care of that
Sa lakas ng
through my prayers very
Sa tindi ng
and the incantations too!
Your fears should have
Tuloy kang
since the Evil one is gone.
Maligno'y gagapusin
All the more, it's long ago
Ngayon at noon
that I caged him through my
Sa dunong

Mangyan Syllabic Script

Click the
image to enlarge

The Mangyans of SOuthern Mindoro, Philippines, (also referred to as

Hanunuo Mangyans),

are still practising a pre-Spanish syllbaic writing system that was in general
use all over the Philippines
at the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century.

The Mangyan script, together with the Northern-Buhid in Mindoro and

the Palawan scripts,

have been declared by the National Museum as National Cultural Treasures

on December 9, 1997.

These scripts were officially inscribed in the "MEMORY OF THE WORLD"


UNESCO on October 6, 1999.

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